Perennial Israeli rugby powerhouse Yizre’el-Gilboa completed the local league-and-cup double on Saturday, beating ASA Tel Aviv 30-20 in the State Cup final.
The outcome had looked unlikely after the host scored two quick tries through Dima Droizel and Adam Rubin to go 14-0 ahead only 10 minutes into the game. Yizre’el-Gilboa rapidly regrouped, and from that point on every Tel Aviv attack was met by fierce tackling that broke down its forays before they developed.
The game gradually morphed from Tel Aviv’s free-running style to a slower, grittier midfield battle as the visitor's heavier pack took more control of the ball. Yizre’el successfully stifled Tel Aviv’s fleet-footed back line, forcing the host into fouls that resulted in kickable penalties. Just before halftime, Yizre’el’s forwards pushed the opposition over the line for a try that narrowed the gap to 14-11.
This patient strategy of attrition continued after the break, and although it barely ran the ball along its back line, Yizre’el continually forced the host backward and made the best of the many penalty kicks it had.
"We knew we have players good enough to beat Tel Aviv, and proved that again today,” Yizre’el captain Jonathan Kaplan said after the game. “We played the type of game that Tel Aviv doesn’t like – our forwards won this game for us.”
Players from the two teams will comprise most of Israel’s national team when it hosts Latvia on April 6 in a World Cup qualifier at the Wingate Institute stadium.
Israeli rugby has vastly improved in recent years and the national team is now ranked 53rd in the world, from 79th only three years ago.